When a seasoned journalist writes a book — especially one who has covered politics for the better part of five decades — you might expect a hard-hitting expose. Or, at least some breaking news.
But, if you sit down to read “East Tennessee Newsmakers” by Georgiana Vines, what you get is something much more gentle. And that’s just what the doctor ordered for these turbulent, tempestuous times, if you ask me.
When I read Georgiana’s book over Thanksgiving weekend, I felt as if I were sitting on a porch having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with her. I almost could imagine myself saying something like, “Have you heard anything new on Mary Lynn Majors, lately?”
It’s not breaking news, but here are a few fun tidbits I did pick up from the book:
- U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander has an insect named for him: the Cosberella lamaralexanderi, Latin for Lamar Alexander springtail. The insect features a checkerboard coloration that resembles Alexander’s trademark plaid shirts that he wore when campaigning for governor and president. He was honored with the name in recognition of his longtime support of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Cissy Baker, the daughter of U.S. Sen. Howard Baker Jr., is a recovering alcoholic and opioid addict who attends Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, sometimes six to seven times a week. She wants to open a recovery center on Courthouse Square in Huntsville, Tennessee, to help other people with the same afflictions. She told Georgiana she believes she was born with alcoholism.
- Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, disgraced and forced to resign his judgeship because of his well-publicized addiction to pain pills, spent years volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee both before and after he served a prison term. Twice a week he came in to pack food for schoolchildren. He wrote a psalm that indicated he was grappling with trying to understand the concept of God and religion a few months before his death last year. Georgiana printed the psalm with permission from his widow.
- Tipper Gore granted an interview to Vines only on the condition that the reporter not ask her any questions about politics, which kind of eliminated the most interesting subjects of discussion.
- Former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist and his wife, Martha, will be leaving the stunningly beautiful home they own in Blount County and will move next year to a community in Collierville, Tennessee. “There comes a point when you don’t want to deal with icy roads,” said Sundquist, who is in his 80s. The Sundquists have sold their home, which has a view of the Smoky Mountains from almost every room, to Thomas Boyd and his wife, Lindsey, for $1.3 million. He is the son of UT’s interim president, Randy Boyd, and his wife, Jenny.
- Award-winning actor and Knoxville native John Cullum once was a paid singer at both Church Street United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church in downtown Knoxville. He was fired from both those jobs. “I couldn’t cut the mustard,” he said. “They told me they still loved me, but I couldn’t sing.”
- Mary Lynn Majors, wife of former University of Tennessee Football Head Coach Johnny Majors, is an award-winning flower arranger and flower show judge, who has traveled all over the world to judge flower shows. She says she’s slowing down now, even hiring a gardener to take care of the plants at her home.
Several of the subjects in the 219-page book turned out on a recent Friday night for Georgiana’s book release and book signing at Union Ave Books. Some of the others Georgiana caught up with: Joan Ashe, Jimmy Duncan, S. David Freeman, Harry Moskos, Bo Roberts, Leigh Hendry, Melanie Staten, Phil Keith and Rabbi Beth Schwartz.
You should grab a copy — and a cup of coffee.